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Interesting Thoughts on Children’s 'Best Interests': A Discussion with Nigel Cantwell

child playing with multicoloured wire puzzle
October 9, 2023
Canada Room, Lanyon Building, Queen’s University Belfast
14:30 - 16:30

Centre for Children’s Rights Seminar and
Postgraduate Poster Showcase

Interesting Thoughts on Children’s 'Best Interests': A Discussion with Nigel Cantwell

All are welcome at this free event. Refreshments will be served. For catering purposes, please register here.

Article 3 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) articulates that “In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.” The ‘best interests’, highlighted in Art. 3, has become a General Principle of the Convention due to its overarching need to be considered in the achievement of all other rights for children. However, the determination of what the ‘best’ is, whose ‘interests’ it might serve, and the process in which it is defined is not without contention. The Centre for Children’s Rights is delighted to welcome back Nigel Cantwell to share with us his interesting insights and reflections on the origins and applications of the 'best interests' principle.

Nigel Cantwell is a Geneva-based international consultant on child protection policies. He founded the NGO Defence for Children International in 1979 and coordinated the inputs of the NGO Group for the Convention on the Rights of the Child throughout the drafting of that treaty. Following six years leading work on child protection issues at UNICEF's Innocenti Research Centre, he has focused mainly on enhancing policy and practice for safeguarding the human rights of children affected by intercountry adoption and alternative care. In that context, he has been mandated to carry out more than a dozen evaluation missions to countries ranging from Viet Nam to Ukraine, Sierra Leone and Guatemala. Since 2000, he has been UNICEF’s delegated expert to all meetings of the Hague Conference on Private International Law relating to the 1993 Adoption Convention and served as lead consultant for drawing up the UN Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children, 2005-2009. He lectures on Masters courses at the Universities of Geneva and Leiden. In 2017 he was awarded an honorary doctorate in recognition of his work by the University of Strathclyde, where he is currently Visiting Professor.

Postgraduate Showcase
Our discussion with Nigel Cantwell will be followed by a poster exhibition to showcase our postgraduate students' research. Please stay on to celebrate some of our recently submitted MSc in Children’s Rights and MSc Youth Justice students’ dissertations, and PhD candidates’ theses-in-progress.


School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work
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